At the World Youth Day in Toronto in 2002, Pope John Paul II traveled for the first time in the new popemobile on the basis of the Mercedes-Benz M-Class, which had been presented to him by DaimlerChrysler AG a little earlier. The special body of the car (W 163 series) was modeled on its predecessors on G-Class chassis. However, the cupola on the M-Class was no longer squared. For the first draft of a popemobile on the basis of the G-Class, this compact cube made of advanced plastic (not armored glass, as is often assumed) had simply suggested itself because the cupola was easy to remove from the chassis of the converted offroader when required.
At the time the new M-Class was provided, however, using the car without protective panes had been out of the question for quite a while. Therefore, the Mercedes-Benz designers created a special superstructure whose sides extend far upwards behind the front doors, thereby providing an elegant frame for the large windows surrounding the pope’s seat. With its V8 engine with a displacement of 4.3 liters and an output of 272 hp, the ML 430 was adequately powered to serve as the basic car for the new popemobile. And like its G-Class predecessors, the papal M-Class was given a mother-of-pearl finish and white interior appointments.